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Oconee Farmers Market Growing

From hiring a market manager to looking for additional space and expanding days of operation, plans are in the works to accommodate and encourage growth.

The has grown by leaps and bounds ever since its inaugural season in 2004, and plans for continous expansion are already in the works.

As one of the co-founders of the market, Russ Page said it has been exciting to see the growth over the years.

During the first season, a handful of vendors set up shop on the front lawn of Eagle Tavern.  As the market grew, vendors began occupying space to the side.  A few years ago, there were so many vendors that the market took over the back lawn.  

"The move was a good move except that we don't have the visibility that we had," Page said.

He added that he likes the downtown location because "customers [can] walk to the market with a cup of coffee in their hands."

At times last year 35 vendors sold locally grown products, occupying every space. This year the City of Watkinsville has agreed to close First Street behind the Eagle Tavern to make room for additional vendors if necessary, Page said. But even with the additional space that would allow nearly 40 vendors to participate --something he thinks is a possibility by summer-- the Board of Directors must look ahead and plan for additional space and maybe even occupy a building so the market doesn't have to close if it rains heavily.

Each week one of five of the members on the Board rotates to serve as the market manager; however, since members also participate as vendors themselves, this can be both demanding and challenging, Page said. The Board hopes to hire a market manager to take over the responsibilities.

In order to finance such an endeavor, Page said he is in the process of writing a grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Market Promotion Program.

He hopes enough grant monies will be awarded to not only pay for a manager, but for the market to expand from one to two days of operation during the season.

"We're trying to make the market better, bigger, more supportive of the community," he said.

At the market, Page sells grassfed Senepol beef in a variety of cuts (but we'll have more about that in next week's feature).

Here is a list of other items vendors will have on hand this Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.:

  • Fresh greens (kale, beet greens, chard, etc.)
  • Green onions
  • Green garlic
  • Potatoes
  • Herbs
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Live plants
  • Lamb
  • Sheep's milk soap
  • Applesauce
  • Plum jam
  • Strawberry jam
  • Local honey
  • Sourwood honey with comb
  • Fresh flowers
  • Bread
  • Lefse
  • Granola
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Shea butter products
  • Boiled and fried peanuts
  • Pork skins
  • Beef jerky
  • Pickles on a stick

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